The Coburn Mystery: Chapter 42 (original manuscript)

By June Morrall

A few hours after the brutal murder of Scotty Rae, a panel of Pescaderans was called to the official inquest organized by County Coroner Dr. Goodspeed. [We’ve talked about Goodspeed before; he was the man behind the movement to join Pescadero with San Mateo County, and the county seat at Redwood City, a much closer ride by stagecoach. Pescadero had been part of Santa Cruz County, and during the heavy winter rains, the village was cut off from its southern neighbor.)

A week later there was a hearing in sunny Redwood City. “Judge” Tyler represented Loren Coburn. In his client’s defense, he produced the Portuguese whalers who testified that they saw Scotty fire two shots before Wolff returned fire. That was good enough to get Coburn and his hired thugs out of jail. Bail was set at $5,000 and a date for trial was chosen.

There were two trials. The first began in February 1976. But there were delays because the defendants did not want to be tried together. Then jury selection took longer than anticipated. Conflicting testimony resulted in a hung jury.

In June there was a second trial. This time the court’s judge, Daingerfield, informed the sitting jury that the evidence was insufficient for conviction. They had to turn in a verdict of not guilty.

You can imagine how angry this made the Pescaderans who had come to court to watch the proceedings. If anybody knew Loren Coburn, and his ways, they did. They came to one conclusion and that was that the wealthy landowner Coburn thought he was above the law.

Simultaneously, Judge Daingerfield settled the Pigeon Point case. It was a final decision, he said, as he awarded the wharf, loading chute and roads to Loren Coburn. The case may have been settled in court, but Loren felt he had to bring County Sheriff Edgar with him to enforce the ruling. While the sheriff and Coburn rode over the redwood tree covered mountains to Pigeon Point, Judge Horace Templeton and his partners set in motion a new appeal, stopping Coburn from taking back his land.

The law was on his side but he couldn’t evict the tenants whose lease had run out several years before. It was driving Loren Coburn crazy; he was spending all his time watching produce and wood being loaded at Pigeon Point landing. In his mind, this was his landing, why, he was even losing money. Look at all the shingles and the potatoes being shipped to San Francisco. Who was making money on the venture? Not him, he knew, feeling hot under the collar.

He watched for two days and on the third day he knew he had to do something. With help from his men he pushed the little office at the end of the wharf to a place where it would obstruct commerce. Hah! That must have felt good.

That good feeling wouldn’t last long because Judge Daingerfield was informed of the act and he ordered Coburn to move it back.

By this time, Loren Coburn was so angry there was no way he was going to obey the judge’s orders. The office was unceremoniously tossed onto the rocks below the cliffs.


Legal wrangling over Pigeon Point continued until his opponents ran out of money. In 1878 the California Supreme Court returned the title to Loren Coburn. There were rumors that both sides spent far more money fighting over the property than it was worth.

Now Coburn had control of the loading chute and the warehouse. Small boats still stopped there as they had since 1865–but on November 17, 1885, a mighty southwest gale blew it all away.

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